As world leaders congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris following their inaugurations as President and Vice President of the United States, the two newly inaugurated leaders also received support from those on their home soil. In a joint message wishing the new administration well and echoing Biden's call for national unity, former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton honored the new president.
Appearing side by side in a video message recorded as part of the Celebrating America inaugural special, the three former U.S. leaders spoke of the importance of a peaceful transition of power, unity and their hopes for the future. After Obama touched on the more-than-200-year tradition of inaugurations, Bush, a Republican, said he believes "the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country." He said "America's a generous country" filled with "people of great hearts," noting that both he and the two presidents standing beside him "were lucky to be the president of this country." Bush added that he was pulling for Biden's success, stating, "Your success is our country's success. God bless you."
"We have got to not just listen to folks we agree with, but listen to folks we don't," Obama said. "One of my fondest memories of the inauguration was the grace and generosity that President Bush showed me, and Laura Bush showed Michelle. It was a reminder, that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other's common humanity and that, as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us. If, in fact, we are looking for what binds us together, the American people are strong, they're tough, they can get through hardship and there's no problem they cannot solve when we are working together."
Clinton, meanwhile, said he was "glad" Biden had triumphed in the 2020 election, adding that the country was "ready to march" with the new president. Despite the "totally abnormal challenges" Biden faces, Clinton called it an "exciting time" for America, adding, "You have spoken for us today. Now you will lead for us."
Notably missing from the video was former President Donald Trump, Biden's predecessor, who broke with tradition by becoming the first outgoing president in more than 150 years not to attend his successor's swearing-in, following the likes of Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson, all of whom were also one-term presidents. Trump instead opted to depart the White House early Wednesday morning and deliver a farewell address at a nearby airbase before heading to Florida. Despite the contentious relationship, Biden confirmed later that day that Trump had, in fact, followed one tradition by leaving him a "very generous letter," something outgoing presidents do as they leave office. Biden did not reveal what the letter said.